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Saturday, January 23, 2016

the Randian tone of Donald Trump

The National review takedown of trump laid an egg, and reminds us that nowadays, Glenn Beck counts as a rightwing intellectual. In the old days, National Review actually did have some intellectual heft. For instance, it poured scorn on Ayn Rand. Here's Whttacker Chambers review of Atlas Shrugged. Here's the second graf: The news about this book seems to me to be that any ordinarily sensible head could not possibly take it seriously, and that, apparently, a good many do. Somebody has called it: “Excruciatingly awful.” I find it a remarkably silly book. It is certainly a bumptious one. Its story is preposterous. It reports the final stages of a final conflict (locale: chiefly the United States, some indefinite years hence) between the harried ranks of free enterprise and the “looters.” These are proponents of proscriptive taxes, government ownership, labor, etc., etc. The mischief here is that the author, dodging into fiction, nevertheless counts on your reading it as political reality. This,” she is saying in effect, “is how things really are. These are the real issues, the real sides. Only your blindness keeps you from seeing it, which, happily, I have come to rescue you from.”
I can't imagine such a graf appearing in today's ever pandering NRO. More's the pity.
 In fact, if the NRO contained any moderately intelligent writers in its stable, they would have gone back to Rand to trace the real geneology of Trumpism. Chambers description of Rand's tone hits, presciently, on Donald Trump's genre of bluster: Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!” The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture-that Dollar Sign, for example. At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.

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